The latest film produced and directed by Clint Eastwood is a mystifying film called “Hereafter.” The script was written by Peter Morgan who may be appealing to a cultural sense of curiosity about life after death. The story suggests that there are certain attributes present in all near death experiences: a bright light, calm serenity, lack of a sense of time or motion, and weightlessness. In the movie, persons already in the “hereafter” sometimes communicate with those left behind through a psychic played by Matt Damon. These messages consistently express remorse, forgiveness, and the sense that everything is “alright now” in the hereafter. We are led to believe that there is a world-wide conspiracy aimed at keeping the details of the hereafter from discussion in mainstream books and other media. Religious explanations of the hereafter are belittled and those espousing Christian, Sikh, and Muslim faith are made to look ridiculous.

We are reminded at several turns that one never knows when death might arrive. We find ourselves wondering when the next tragedy might occur for someone in the movie and just when we think everyone is safe more deaths occur. The thing that drives the main characters of the movie is their desire for an explanation of the hereafter. The viewer is readily drawn into the pathos of the lives of those who search for explanation and redemption. Yet, no real answers are ever given. We are simply led to believe that there is a hereafter out there somewhere and perhaps it is good for everyone.

This movie will generate discussion of what is beyond death. It suggests that there is something more than the “light bulb on/light bulb off” approach to life that is espoused by many in Canada. Yet, it provides little real meat for the discussion and will leave many movie-goers with an unsatisfied hunger for more. Perhaps that is the value of a film such as this.

“Begin to be now what you will be hereafter.”
William James (American Philosopher and Psychologist, leader of the philosophical movement of Pragmatism, 1842-1910)